Teddy Bridge-the-Gap? Drafting Justin Fields or Trey Lance still makes more sense in Denver

Dec 19, 2020; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; Carolina Panthers quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (5) throws a pass during warmups prior to the game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

This thing is starting to take shape.

Sort of.

The Carolina Panthers went out and traded for Jets quarterback Sam Darnold. So, Denver, you can safely cross Darnold off the list of potential targets for the Broncos quarterback dilemma. You can also cross Carolina off the list of teams that would have likely taken a quarterback in the upcoming NFL Draft. If things stand pat, the Panthers will pick at No. 8, just one slot ahead of the Broncos.

Whether one puts much stock in mock drafts or not, most of them had Carolina taking a quarterback, leaving one less opportunity for the Broncos to land a signal caller at No. 9, or making it more difficult to trade up to get one.

And another thing about those mock drafts: Almost universally (now), they’ve got Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson and Mac Jones going 1-2-3 to the Jaguars, Jets and 49ers respectively. Now, with the Panthers likely to not take a quarterback – either Trey Lance or Justin Fields – that only leaves four teams in front of the Broncos that could possibly be looking to take a signal caller with their first pick. Let’s assess:

With the fourth pick, the Falcons might represent the biggest wildcard. There’s a lot of speculation as to whether or not the team would like to bring in the heir apparent to Matt Ryan, and drafting a quarterback at No. 4 could make sense. Or, they could give Ryan another weapon – say, someone like the highly coveted tight end out of Florida, Kyle Pitts.

At No. 5, the Bengals aren’t taking a quarterback since they’ve already got Joe Burrow, who’d probably prefer the team takes an offensive lineman or wide reciever. The Dolphins aren’t going to take a quarterback at No. 6, either. They’ve got Tua Tagovailoa, who showed enough promise last season that the team likely won’t shift directions unless it was for a rare opportunity, say, someone like Deshaun Watson.

Somewhat like the Falcons, the Lions sit a No. 7 and few agree on what will take place in Detroit. Yes, they’ve recently acquired Jared Goff, but there are mixed opinions as to whether or not they’re committed to the former Ram. Could the Lions take a quarterback? Sure. But they could also do something very “Lions-esque” and take a wide receiver (which some believe will happen).

Finally, at No. 8, the Panthers will either draft a non-quarterback or look to trade down.

Then there’s the Broncos.

Who – if you’re reading this right now – are trying to decide if current Panthers quarterback and former Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater should factor into Denver’s plans.

It’s possible there will be temptation. Bridgewater’s contract isn’t necessarily friendly for being a backup, but if he were the starter, it’s not unbearable. First, Bridgewater isn’t needed in Carolina anymore. With the addition of Darnold, the Panthers are surely taking calls from anyone interested in Bridgewater (they can always find another, cheaper backup quarterback). Bridgewater, a smart, conservative veteran known for managing a game and not turning the ball over, could – in theory – be the perfect pairing with Drew Lock. Bridgewater provides all the popular buzz words and phrases, providing instant “competition” but also a viable replacement who’s very capable of stepping in and “winning a game.” Perhaps more importantly, is the familiarity between Broncos GM and George Paton and Bridgewater, who was drafted by a staff that Paton was a part of in Minnesota. Furthermore, it would take far less capital to acquire Bridgewater – maybe practically none, given his contract – than it would to move up in the draft to a spot that would undeniably allow Denver to nab a quarterback.

Don’t do it, Denver.

Draft The Guy. And if he turns out to just be a guy, then try and try again.

One thing’s for certain: Bridgewater is not The Guy. He might be a serviceable stop gap, but that’s about it. He provides a marginal “present” and practically zero “future.”

If the Broncos aren’t sold on Lock (and, since they were linked to the Matthew Stafford trade talks, it’s hard to believe they are sold on Lock), they’ve really got two choices: Bring in a Bridgewater type, hope like hell Lock takes Josh Allen-type leap, but more likely expect they’ll be mediocre (and having this same conversation next spring), or, they can get creative and draft Fields or Lance now. They may or may not even have to get that creative, as fewer teams above them are truly in the market for a quarterback now. At worst, they’d have to move up to No. 6, taking Detroit out of the equation. At best, they could roll the dice, hoping that either Atlanta or Detroit doesn’t go with a quarterback, and that there are no other surprises ahead.

Wouldn’t it be exciting going into the 2021 season with Justin Fields or Trey Lance? Wouldn’t it be disappointing (sad? Boring?) to simply try to Bridge the gap… again?

Don’t do it, Denver. Steer clear of Teddy Bridgewater (or someone like him) and draft a quarterback with the potential for upside.